Marsh Award for Innovative Ornithology

2012 - The BTO Cuckoo Team

Over the past couple of years the BTO have been working on the Cuckoo Tracking project. The 'Red Listed' Cuckoo is one of the UK's fastest declining migrants and, until recently, one of which ornithologists knew the least about once it left the UK. In 2011 the Cuckoo team at the BTO attached satellite-tracking devices to Cuckoos from Norfolk to find out more about their important stop-over sites and wintering destinations on the way to and from Africa. In 2012 this was expanded to include tagged birds from Wales and Scotland.

At the heart of this process is the desire to engage the public. On the BTO website, viewers can see the cuckoo’s developing migration patterns and can decide to sponsor a particular bird. This generates an enthusiasm around the subject and allows birdwatchers and others who share a fascination with birds, to come together and uncover the story of cuckoo migration.

The project has been instrumental in unveiling new discoveries in cuckoo migration. Recently named cuckoos ‘Clement’ and ‘Lyster’ recently migrated to Africa via Spain which marked a completely new migration route. Having made it to Africa ornithologists questioned whether these two birds would revert back to a mid-African migration route and join the birds in Nigeria and Chad, as the Saharan crossing is one of the major sources of mortality for many migrants. We now know that both of these birds minimized this distance by migrating down the western edge of the desert into Senegal and the Gambia, and in doing so became the first ever British cuckoos to be recorded in West Africa.

Pictured above: Top: Cuckoo with tracking device
Below: Chris Hewson, BTO cuckoo team, with volunteer Paul Noakes.

All photographs are credited to Phil Atkinson, from the BTO cuckoo team


British Trust for Ornithology
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IP24 2PU
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